I just got back from the very first Festival of Holidays in Disney California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort!
This new Festival is running now through January 8, 2017, and features music, dance and entertainment, and decorations all in honor of the season as it is celebrated around the globe.
You can see photos of every food item, plus prices and menus, at our
One major component of the celebration — and the one we here at the DFB were obviously most interested in — is cuisine. Fourteen brand new Festival Marketplace Booths are serving up flavors from all over the world.
Obviously, I couldn’t resist booking a ticket to California to see how things would play out for this new event. And I have LOTS to tell you.
Let’s start with a VERY brief orientation. Here’s a pic of the Festival Guide Map showing you the lay of the land for the various booths (just click on the image to enlarge).
And below is a look at the Festival Entertainment (again, simply click on the image for easier viewing).
And now, to the FOOD! Let’s start with the good news. There are a few items at the Festival that I want to point out, because I think these are the must-eats of the Festival.
Must-Eat Items at the Festival of Holidays
Reuben Potato Smash at Nosh & Nibbles Booth
The Reuben Potato Smash with Russian dressing and Rye toast at Nosh & Nibbles is on the top of my list for what you should definitely try at the Festival of Holidays.
This was toward the end of our tasting day, but I pretty much fought my companions for the last bite! It was super savory (aaaaaallllllmost too salty, but if you like salty like I do, you’ll LOVE this!) and flavorful. It’s basically two giant tots with so many amazing fixings! Just buy, like, three of these and call it a day.
Sweet Potato Pie at Southern Home Holidays Booth
All the food items at the Southern Home Holidays Booth are tasty. But the Sweet Potato Pie with candied pecans takes top honors!
I have to say, I’ve never actually had sweet potato pie. I know — sacrilege. But this was truly wonderful. The super thick streusel on top was dense, buttery, and sweet with the perfect texture. The spiced cream was the perfect accompaniment (and they didn’t skimp on it). But I was super surprised to enjoy the sweet potato filling as much as I did!
Mine was served very cold, which I enjoyed. I’m a cold pie person anyway. But if you’re expecting it warm, be prepared.
Praline & Bourbon Whoopie Pie at Winter Sliderland Booth
The headliners at Winter Sliderland are — as you might guess — the savory Sliders. But it’s the sweet Praline & Bourbon Whoopie Pie that is my favorite on the menu.
That may have a little something to do with the fact that I’m pretty sure that’s CREAM CHEESE FROSTING on the inside! But the cake itself was super moist, and the crumbles on top were awesome.
It should be noted, though, that the taste of bourbon is quite pronounced, in case you’re not into that. If you enjoy it, though, this is highly recommended!
I also have a list of Honorable Mentions. These items are good — they really are. But the reason none of them made my MUST-try list is… well, let’s take it dish by dish.
Aside from the Whoopie Pie, Winter Sliderland offers two pretty terrific sliders: the Kalua Pork Slider with pineapple jam and slider slaw and the Roasted Turkey Slider with cranberry sauce and gravy. I gave the edge, though, to the Roasted Turkey Slider.
I always enjoy a good spin on the whole “Thanksgiving-leftovers-in-a-sandwich” trend. This slider was really flavorful, which isn’t often the case when it comes to turkey. And the tang of the cranberry sauce meeting with the savory gravy was fantastic. And the price tag?
Yep. 8 BUCKS. (You can see all of the prices of each item at the Festival by visiting our Main Festival Booths page, then clicking on the individual booths to see the menus and price listings).
Basically, for about three or four dollars more, you could go to a Counter Service restaurant and have a full size sandwich with a side or two. Several people I spoke to mentioned that they’d much rather head over to Earl of Sandwich and have the holiday sandwich for just a slight bit more.
For another price comparison — (it’s not exactly the same item, but close) — take the Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole® Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise from the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. That one was $4.25 this past year, as opposed to the Festival of Holidays $7.50 tag for their Kalua Slider. And this was a trend I kept seeing — many of the similar items at this festival were nearly twice the price of what was charged at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. That’s not cool.
I also thought the Adobo Pork Bao at Good Fortune’s Feast was one of the more memorable dishes. The pork, shaved red onion, and the crunchy garlic chicharron all lent a unique mix of flavors and textures tucked inside the steamed bun.
Again, though, we have a price issue.
There it is again: $8.00. (And don’t even get me started on the $8.75 Spring Roll).
The Chicken & Potato Curry with Kefir cream and grilled naan at Spice Salutations is totally tasty. You just can’t go wrong with curry and naan bread.
Unfortunately, the quality wasn’t quite there to justify the price.
There is one more item I’d like to mention. And while I know that the food choices at Treats for Santa aren’t anything super original (the menu is basically made up of traditional holiday sweets), I have to give some interactive points to this booth for the Mickey Snowman Decorating Cookie Kit.
I mean, that’s pretty cute. And it really is cool and thoughtful to have something for the kiddos to enjoy among the more grown-up flavors of the Festival. Plus, let’s face it. It never hurts to have a little something ready for the Big Guy and his reindeer on Christmas Eve!
Overall, though, it makes me sad that I can’t give the food component of the Festival of Holidays higher marks. Especially because the concept behind these Marketplace Booths was — quite frankly — terrific. Upon the initial announcement for the event, I LOVED the global aspect of the whole thing, and I was genuinely excited to try the vast majority of the items when the menus were released.
But there was ONE item that even I passed on: the Holiday Cheese Ball at Brews & Bites. Even though it comes with fruit, pretzels, and crackers, the thing is just TINY. And it’s 15 bucks.
And that offers a decent example of my experience.
Allow me to say, if you’re paying a visit to Disney California Adventure, you SHOULD take time to enjoy the Festival of Holidays. There is lots of festive fun to be had. You can say hello to Princess Elena of Avalor, or take some time with Santa to drop a few hints about what you’d like to find under the tree this year. And there’s a special seasonal version of World of Color — Season of Light to take in during the evenings. Plus, the general atmosphere that the talented musicians and performers provide is not only entertaining, it’s also a great opportunity to appreciate the music and traditions of different cultures that you may not otherwise experience.
But regarding the food, while I recommend perusing it, there are only a few items I can really stand behind based on quality and price.
Since this is the first year of the Festival, it’s unknown at this time if it will take place again next year. Despite what I’ve shared here today, I hope it does. Why? Because the ingredients — if you’ll pardon the pun — are all there for a terrific event. If more attention is paid to quality of the items and more appropriate price points, this whole thing has the potential to become a great event.
I will definitely be curious to find out if it this event makes a return. In the meantime, though, you’ve got until January 8th to check it out for yourselves. If you do, I would really appreciate hearing what you think.
I will say this: it DOES feels pretty much official at this point to wish you HAPPY HOLIDAYS from Disneyland!
Don’t forget to check out all of our food photos and all of the prices and menus for the festival at the Festival of Holidays Index Page!
Will you be attending the Festival of Holidays? Please let us know with a comment!